Archive for September, 2008

Basic Examples of Usage Data

September 28th, 2008

In past posts I’ve said that I believe there is a need to make basic, aggregate, anonymized information about Internet usage more widely available. If everything that is known about the basic usage of the Internet is closed and proprietary then the Internet as an open platform will suffer. Here I’ll try to describe the kinds of data I’m talking about. For now I’ll call it “usage data” though that’s just a term of convenience.

There is a set of usage data that we’re quite accustomed to seeing in aggregated, anonymized form. Unconsciously I think many of us have come to realize that without public availability of this data we cannot understand even the basics of how the Internet is working.

One familiar example is the amount of bandwidth a site serves. Bandwidth data is critical to planning capacity and making sure the website doesn’t “go down” when spikes of traffic occur. Bandwidth usage is also tracked quite carefully by the ISPs (Internet service providers) for their planning and billing purposes. As an example, here’s a blog post showing bandwidth usage when we brought our facility in Amsterdam online. In addition to the data, there are also a series of posts about what was involved in making this happen, which we hope helps others who want to do similar things.

Another familiar example is the amount of “traffic” to a website in a day or a month. This is one important method of determining how popular a website is. Changes in these numbers can reflect trends and changing behavior. A specific page view might be associated with a particular person, and thus be sensitive personal data. But the total number of page views is not related to a specific person. It tells us overall how popular a site is.

A third familiar example are download numbers, which can be very informative in specific settings. For example, we had a real-time download counter during the Firefox 3 Download Day event. We were able to provide automated counts of downloads and current number of downloads per minute, each broken out by language, during this event.  Here’s some basic analysis of download locales, showing how global a project Mozilla is. And here’s a post showing the effect on download rates caused by a popular talk-show host. This information can be useful without any personal or individual data being disclosed.

These examples are clearly very general. I use them precisely for this reason — to demonstrate that we already understand the usefulness of this type of data and that it can be presented in an aggregate, anonymous form. There are other forms of aggregate, anonymous data that can be equally useful in understanding how the Internet is being used and ultimately, understanding what the Internet really is. I’ll describe some of those in a subsequent post; this one is long enough for now.

The types of data I’ve described above are carefully tracked, analyzed and used in planning and decision-making across the industry. It’s often not publicly available. We’d like to see more of this sort of information publicly available. We hope to start publishing more of this type of information about Mozilla. To do this, we need to be confident that people understand this is not publishing personal or individual data, and this is not Mozilla changing.

This is part of our effort to make the Internet accessible. At the same time, Mozilla will continue to be at the forefront in protecting individuals’ security and privacy.

Discussion of Mobile Goals — Sept. 17 2008

September 22nd, 2008

On Wednesday, September 17 a group of 10 or 15 people had a discussion about the proposed 2010 “mobile” goal. The notes of that meeting are below. I’ve also incorporated additional comments from the newsgroup. Asa, Atul, and Nanda are interested in facilitating future discussions of these topics. (I’m interested too, but not always around. And in any case the whole goal is to build many connections, with many set of discussions.) Each of them may initiate discussions, 1 or 2 people, maybe groups. If you’re interested in discussing this feel free to contact any of us in addition to commenting here (contact info is at the end.)

I’ve put an outline first, for brevity.

Effective Product in the mobile market means:

  • mindshare
  • marketshare
  • momentum
  • Reference Implementation for the Generative Web
  • Platform issues ongoing (is this an execution issue, or is there a value piece here as well?

One, unified web, including mobile means:

  • Mobile specific presentation, not mobile specific content
  • The Web as SDK
  • General Web standards and APIs, not mobile specific

Effective Product Discussion
Part one of the mobile goal says “have an effective product in the mobile market.”  What do we mean by an “Effective Product”?

  • First, the three “M”s:  mindshare, marketshare, momentum
  • Asa asked if there is there an cross-platform value here as there is on the desktop. We didn’t reach a conclusion on this. (In any case portability as a technical requirement is high.)
  • Reference Implementation for the Generative Web. We also ended up thinking an important goal might well be to make our mobile product a reference implementation for the generative web. In other words, an effective product is one that demonstrates how much innovation and improvement in user experience is possible through openness. We’re looking at a range of products that are (a) tightly controlled up and down the entire stack; and which (2) promote development of applications that aren’t web applications, but are built on closed technologies. We could define an effective product is one that demonstrates this closed, non-web approach is not necessary and is limiting. The exact phrase is mine. I like it because we have long thought of Firefox on the desktop as a “reference implementation for web standards” as well as a great end user product. I like the symmetry here, but even so the phrase itself is not important.
  • Zak asks if an effective product is one which people can use to *author* content, we haven’t talked about this yet.

One Web Discussion
The second part of the proposed mobile goal says “demonstrate that ‘mobile’ is part of one, unified, open web.”

  • We spend a bunch of time talking about mobile specific sites, content and presentation. It’s pretty clear that the size and input mechanisms of mobile devices mean that simply presenting the full website exactly as we see it on the desktop doesn’t always result in the best experience. Our hope is that the tuning for mobile is in *presentation* via CSS and other web-centric techniques. Tuning for presentation can be something good for users. We hope not too see to many mobile-specific sites or very much mobile specific content. That content lives in silos, is not sharable with the web, and ends up promoting the different closed gardens of information and communities that the web has done so much to alleviate. We need to make sure that the web mechanisms available (CSS, etc.) are adequate to the task.
  • Our current label for this idea is: “the Web as SDK.” Build mobile content using web technologies and standards, accessible across devices, and vary the presentation to fit the device.

  • Standards and APIs. We want to avoid mobile-specific standards and APIs. That also encourages fragmentation of content and access. Our goal is to expand the web to be a good mobile platform. This means developing APIs (like geolocation) as part of the web standards so they can be used across the range of devices from mobile to desktop. (We noted that this is not a simple or easy goal. Security is always a concern, as is the multitude of devices.

Broader picture.
Two areas were raised where we weren’t sure how a Mozilla product could help, they seem to have an advocacy or policy basis. We wanted to capture them as areas to look at again, see if the Mozilla Foundation’s programs might address these or there are others working on this who have ideas for which Mozilla is particularly qualified to participate.

  • What about bringing the mobile web to the billions of people in the developing countries / emerging markets?
  • access to the web via mobile devices is very expensive, in both developed and emerging markets.

Future Discussions.
Three of the people in this gathering — Asa (asa at mozilla dot org), Atul (avarma at mozilla dot com) and Nanda (kishore dot nanda at are interesting in facilitating future discussions of these topics. (I’m interested too, but not always around. And in any case the whole goal is to build many connections, with many set of discussions.) Each of them may initiatite discussions, 1 or 2 people, maybe groups. If you’re interested in discussing this feel free to contact any of us, or of course to comment here.

Diving Deeper into the Proposed 2010 Goal for Mobile

September 21st, 2008

Note:  I saw one press article wondering if including “have an effective product in the mobile space” in our 2010 goals means that we won’t ship something interesting until 2010.  That is not the case at all.  We will ship well before then.  The intent of this goal was to say: in 2010 when we look at where we are, it should be screamingly obvious that we’ve done this. That means releasing a good product much sooner, seeing good results and acceptance, and seeing those results grow over time.

We also need to get a bit further on what “effective product” means. The details may or may not end up in the goals statement, brevity may be a big virtue.  But if there aren’t included, we’ll want a place where we capture the next couple of levels of detail.

On that note, I posted some questions about the mobile goal in the mozilla.governance newsgroup last week.  I meant to cross-post here simultaneously, but last week was quite hectic and I missed that.

I’ve proposed a set of product and technology goals for Mozilla for 2010. ( One of these goals is about the mobile space. It’s below. I believe that the two very high level goals I proposed for mobile are uncontroversial in themselves. If that’s not the case then please speak up asap.

3. Mobile

* have an effective product in the mobile market
* demonstrate that “mobile” is part of one, unified, open web”

Gerv has suggested we talk about what an “effective product” means. Is that a market share number? Some degree of mindshare? Proof that Firefox on mobile devices is as exciting as Firefox on the desktop? Are users the key, or innovation, or speed, or mindshare?

As to the second part of the goal Stuart notes that we’ll need to think about how content is created for devices with different characteristics than a desktop machine, and how this affects our idea of one web. How should we approach this?

What do you think is necessary for an “effective product” on mobile devices?  And how should we think about maintaining one web? Free-flow thoughts are welcome — what’s the picture you’d like to see?

(Some thoughts from summit attendees can be found here. I asked people to put their thoughts on sticky notes and attach them to the various goals. So these are stitched together in any way.)

Last week we also had an initial in person / phone dial-in group discussion regarding the mobile goals. I’ll post about that next.

Mechanics for discussion of 2010 goals

September 21st, 2008

About ten days ago I published a proposed set of product and technology goals for the next two years. It’s a bit hard to talk about the topic in one big chunk. There are some very thoughtful comments to my last post that I want to discuss, but if feels a bit fragmented to do that through blog comments. (Many thanks to those who’ve responded).

To address this I’m going to break the discussion into smaller pieces. I’ll put them here, and also in the Governance newsgroup where it’s sometimes easier to have a discussion. You can also participate through the mozilla.governance Google Group. I’ll seed the discussions with some questions, context and with the comments that have been made so far.

We’ve set up an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) channel called #2010goals; I’ll hang out there as much as possible for the next few weeks. Anyone interested in the topic is more than welcome to do the same, to look for me or just for discussions. I’m traveling this coming week and expect to be frantically busy, so this week may not fiind me in #2010goals much, but there are other interested folks to look for. I expect the channel will be used most as the discussions peak.

We’ll also try having a series of phone/ video group discussions. We’ll definitely do some from Mountain View in the California timezone. We may do some in other timezones as well, I haven’t looked into arranging this yet.

Mock-Ups Available for Notices (previously was EULA)

September 17th, 2008

First set of mock-ups

Second post re mock-ups

Firefox without EULAs — Update

September 16th, 2008

We’re still working on this. There’s been a bunch of helpful feedback. We appreciate this. We think we’ve integrated the feedback into something that’s a good solution; different from out last version in both its essence and its presentation and content.

We’ve come to understand that anything EULA-like is disturbing, even if the content is FLOSS based. So we’re eliminating that. We still feel that something about the web services integrated into the browser is needed; these services can be turned off and not interrupt the flow of using the browser. We also want to tell
people about the FLOSS license — as a notice, not as as EULA or use restriction. Again, this won’t block the flow or provide the unwelcoming feeling that one comment to my previous post described so eloquently.

We expect to have the materials that show this plan posted tomorrow morning.

Along with the feedback, there have also been some responses that go beyond anger to nasty, personal attacks.  This is unfortunate. I think we’ve gotten past the vitriol to absorb the underlying issues. It’s possible that we’ve missed something. Sometimes the vitriol masks what would otherwise be a point we might understand and agree with. If that’s the case, we’ll keep working on things. The end result will be better for all of us.

Ubuntu, Firefox and License Issues

September 15th, 2008

Ubuntu recently included a patch that causes an End User License  Agreement for Firefox to appear. This has caused great concern on several topics. One is the content of the agreement. Another is the presentation. A third is whether there’s any reason for a license at all.

The most important thing here is to acknowledge that yes, the content of the license agreement is wrong. The correct content is clear that the code is governed by FLOSS licenses, not the typical end user license agreement language that is in the current version. We created a license that points to the FLOSS licenses, but we’ve made a giant error in not getting this to Ubuntu, other distributors, and posted publicly for review. We’ll correct this asap.

Second, the way the license is presented to people also has issues. I think the presentation might not be so bad if we had the correct content there, so that it said the software is governed by the FLOSS licenses that are so important to us. But even then the presentation may have issues. We’re certainly trying to figure this out. We’ll do this with public input; you’ll see posts about this shortly as well.

There’s a third question of services, and whether the FLOSS license for the code can include the services one accesses. We think this isn’t true all the time, and the license will reflect that. The code is governed by FLOSS licenses, and we should have been clear about that.

This leaves the question of whether it ever makes sense to show people the terms that relate to the software and services available to them. I saw some comments asking why one ever needs any terms. Again, if we had the correct content I think this would be less of an issue because then we would be telling people about FLOSS licenses. We (meaning Mozilla) have shot ourselves in the foot here given the old, wrong content. So I hope we can have a discussion on this point, but I doubt we’ll have a good one until we fix the other problems.

We take this very seriously and are working hard to fix it.

Update: text of the revised license is online.

Proposed 2010 Goals

September 11th, 2008

What can Mozilla do with our products and our product development processes to move the Internet toward our vision of an open, decentralized, participatory place in the next two years? In my last post I suggested we develop a set of goals to answer this question. Here’s my proposal. Comments, suggestions, additions, deletions, concerns, even wholesale restructuring welcome!

1. Deepen Mozilla’s role as a centerpiece of the Internet

  • communities continue to expand and provide means for individual development
  • thought leadership expands to include things such as the open web, hybrid social enterprises, organizational sustainability, shared decision-making, individual control, and portability in Internet life
  • innovations emerge from the Mozilla world
  • technology excellence and industry wide leadership continues
  • projects and products remain vital

2. Data: provide leadership in

  • helping people exercise better ownership and control over their data
  • making anonymous, aggregate “usage data” more of a public resource

3. Mobile

  • have an effective product in the mobile market
  • demonstrate that “mobile” is part of one, unified, open web

4. Continue Firefox mindshare and marketshare momentum

2010 Goals

September 10th, 2008

I propose we have a set of goals for the next two years that describe the ways we want our products and technologies to move the Mozilla misison forward.

These goals should be concrete enough that people can respond to them and provide a means for evaluating the scope of progress. Perhaps even more importantly, these goals should express important ideas rather than specifying implementation plans. They should set the directional, aspirational goals. They are intended to describe the type and scope of accomplishment we want to see.

Broad aspirational goals are critical, for the reasons I described last May. Mozilla’s great success is built on:

. . . many thousands of people (tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, actually) moving in the same general direction, most of whom aren’t full time, aren’t employees and may not even be known personally to the project’s leadership. We won’t know and don’t seek to control all the things people will do that make us more successful. Articulating a broad, commonly shared set of aspirations helps many disparate groups of people organize themselves and work towards very practical, concrete tasks that make our aspirations real.

There are also other broader goals that Mozilla might take on — proposals to date include education, open source evangelism in general, open everything, assisting online communities with participatory tools. These discussions will pick up steam as Mark Surman joins us. Having an  set of goals for our product and technology development will also provide valuable input into that discussion.

I’ll give a list of 2010 Goals in my next post. I initially presented these goals at the Firefox Summit, and invited people to post sticky notes and comments on a whiteboard. The transcribed notes have been placed on the Wiki so they can continue to generate discussion.

Please take some time to review the proposed goals, make suggestions, ask questions, and make alternatve proposals. It’s important to have only a small number of goals, so I’ll be constantly trying to find the over-arching themes.

To-Do List

September 8th, 2008

It’s been a hectic summer. First the Firefox 3 release, then the Firefox (Plus) Summit, then working on renewing our Google agreement, then  a week of vacation at the end of August, and then responding to the release of Google’s browser. (Fortunately part of my vacation was in an old cabin in a beautiful old state park with waterfalls and woods and trails and not much else to do but relax and unwind.) I’ve got a lot of things in progress that I want to return to, as well as a bunch of new topics. Here’s a partial list:


New topics:

  • Mark Surman starts as new Mozilla Foundation ED in two weeks. I’m anticipating he’ll spend a couple of weeks getting settled and then there will be a flow of Foundation topics that both he and I will be focused on.
  • Describe my current role — what I’e been doing, how I work with John and the rest of MoCo in my current role.
  • Describe my perspective on what it’s like to guide a project like Mozilla, how we “manage” things, what leadership looks like, what I’m learning about distributed authority.

Unplanned: I don’t know what these are yet, but I’m sure they are coming. If the past is any judge, the unplanned topics may well overshadow everything else! Even before that happens there’s plenty to do 🙂

Skip past the sidebar